Saturday, July 2, 2011
Well That Didn't Go As Planned, Now Did It?
In the last two days, the Pens were led to believe by the people in the Jagr camp (ie, Petr Svoboda, his agent) that he was still making a tough decision but his heart was in Pittsburgh. He had always talked quite candidly about how he left the city early last decade and how he always regretted (or so he claimed) how it all went down. Does anyone remember the "dying inside" comment? I do. The city of Pittsburgh does. But we got over it. He spoke before of being willing to take a pay cur or even play for nothing if he could just play again for Mario Lemieux and show him that he still had something in the tank. Remember the interview during the Olympics? I do. The city of Pittsburgh does.
Everyone seemed willing to let bygones be bygones and move on. Getting one of the most storied players in franchise history had set the city a buzz with excitement. It also polarized many Penguin fans because of that feeling everyone has for someone that they loved dearly who betrayed their trust and respect. On one side you had the people that wanted him back, if nothing else, but to bring himself back into the Pittsburgh Penguin family and retire where he belongs. On the other side were the naysayers that saw nothing but the same old Jagr antics that we last saw, upsetting the locker room chemistry and wreaking havoc off the ice. Then there were those, like yours truly that saw a different perspective. I saw a guy that was willing to put aside his ego, admit his mistakes, and rejoin a team that made him who he was. He was a guy that despite being almost 40, can still score, can still skate, and can still scrap. We all saw that in the World Championships and Olympics (albeit on wider ice). Having a guy like that would drastically improve not only one of the top lines on the wing by complimenting Crosby or Malkin, but also jumpstart the power play that was all but non-existent last season.
Part of Jagr's problem with the Pens was that despite being the anchor of the team for so long after Mario's retirement, he never really had the lockeroom. It was always other guys that stepped up and garnered the respect of the younger guys and kept the team together. There were rumors of his temper tantrums and shouting matches with other players, none of which I can substantiate but it is an example of how his attitude and ego began to creep out of control. Despite all this, he wore the Captain C and continued to put on scoring clinics night after night around the NHL. When Mario came back, he was made to relinquish the C back to his "boss" and now teammate and assume the position of second fiddle once again. He never really got over that and part of the reason for the jump to Washington the first time was because in a Caps jersey, he would be numero uno.
So Jagr is now the man. His agent told Pittsburgh sports radio yesterday that this decision was based on Jagr going where he had the best chance to succeed. He didn't say best chance to win, he said succeed. And there it is. He wants a chance to go out on top. A chance to win a scoring title again. A chance to win another trophy without the name Stanley on it. A chance to be the center of attention and the focal point of a line with all eyes on him. That would shut up the critics. That would make all the haters sit back and say, "Hmmm? Maybe he still has it." He wouldn't have gotten that in Pittsburgh. At best, he would have been the fourth best player on the team. A worst, maybe the sixth best. He would be playing under the shadow of Sidney Crosby, who has been molded into one of the all time greats already at an early age by that same man that previously led the way for his success.
So yes, I'm upset. I can't say I won't ever get over it. Despite the fact that it's just a sport, being a fan goes a bit deeper than that. When something happens to your team, you feel it too. The excitement as well as the agony are felt by everyone that calls themselves fans. I got myself sucked into the frenzy caused by a former player, legend, and childhood "hero"s attempt at another shot at greatness. Instead, i will have to settle by watching it happen in an orange and black jersey.
Man I'm so ready for hockey season again.